Yoga: Morning Moon Salutations

Exercise isn't always about how much you can do, but sometimes how much you can focus your intention on what your body really needs.

It's easy to set yourself on auto-pilot (even while doing yoga!), so for those days where you want to move, but feel like you need to realign and reground, this sequence is it.

Take your time with this one and repeat as many times as you wish.

Did you try this sequence? Let me know what you think in the COMMENTS below!

Yoga: Creative Core + Outer Hip Stretch

Enjoy this 20-minute sequence filled with various core work to strengthen your center and to get your outer hips and glutes stretched and ready for Parivrtta Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Revolved Hand to Big Toe Pose).

Did you try this sequence? Let me know what you think in the COMMENTS below!

Featured on MindBodyGreen: 4 Reasons To Meditate On A Plane (And How To Do It)

Read the article below, or on MindBodyGreen here:

Let me preface by saying that in my opinion, there's no "right" way to meditate.

You don't have to be trained or have read any special mystical books, nor do you need to be seated cross-legged on a cushion with perfect posture, nestled in some magical environment.

In fact, it's often in the most unlikely of places and at the most random of times, that dropping into a meditation on a whim can do a whole lot of good.

One of those random places in particular? On an airplane.

Here are four reasons why meditation is a must-do when you're flying, plus a few tips to help get you started:

1. There's nothing else to do.

With longer flights often comes boredom, there's just no way around it. After hours of sitting in one place, we might peruse through the in-flight movies or do some work on our laptop, take a nap or get some reading done.

If we're traveling solo or have a poor Internet or TV connection (not to mention no phone calls or texts), we can find ourselves getting bored real quick.

So why not pass the time by calming and centering your mind? You're already 75% of the way there — you're sitting still and in silence.

Now just close your eyes and take some deep, mindful breaths.

2. Flying can cause stress and anxiety.

A fear of flying and not being in control — not to mention encountering turbulence — can raise your heart rate fast and make you uncomfortable.

So try this mantra in your head:

Say to yourself "I am safe" with every inhale, and "I am calm" with every exhale.

Keep this going for as long as you like and notice your heart rate start to lower and your mind begin to calm.

If you have mala beads, you can incorporate them in this meditation:

Place the mala in your right hand. Beginning from the tassel bead, move along to each next bead with your thumb allowing the mala to slide through your hand. Each time you move to another bead, repeat the above mantra in your head.

By offering your brain these positive thoughts, you'll keep from thinking of worst-case scenarios, and will begin to tune in to the present moment where everything is indeed, OK.

3. You'll get in the right mindset.

No matter where you're headed or where you're coming from, taking time to meditate while you're in transit will give you perspective and clarity about your journey.

Are you going on an exciting vacation? Tune in to how grateful you are for this experience.

Are you nervous about heading to a job interview? Check in with yourself about the ways you're smart enough, capable and passionate.

Heading to a competition? Visualize starting the big game and how you're going to execute that first play.

Traveling takes a toll on your physical body, but also on your mind. So on your flight home, make sure to take a moment to close your eyes and breathe to reset back to baseline, before jumping back into your everyday life.

4. You're treating yourself to self-care.

If "being busy" and "not having enough time in the day" are your excuses for not taking time for yourself (or meditating) on a regular basis, here's your chance!

You know exactly how much time you've got on your hands, so make room for a small chunk of self-care for YOU. There's no way you're too busy to take a few minutes for yourself in some meditation on your flight!

So there you have it, you can meditate anywhere and in a number of different ways: repeat a mantra you wish to manifest, visualize your ideal scenario, remember ways you're grateful, or just simply, to breathe.

And don't worry about looking like a spiritual weirdo to those in the aisles around you, they'll just think you're sleeping.

Yoga: Rise & Shine With Sun Salutations

What's one of my favorite ways to start my day?

With yoga, of course! But more specifically, with Sun Salutations.

Sun Salutations (also known as Surya Namaskars) are one of the more recognized sequences in yoga, but why do we do them?

We often do them at the beginning of our practice to "greet the sun", begin to bring movement into our bodies and build prana (life-force) to raise our energy level and awareness.

Sun Salutation A is one of my favorite sequences and I almost always do it early on in my practice. Occasionally when I'm short on time or just need a quick full body stretch, I'll just do a handful of these because they're that effective. 

And I must say, there's something about this sequence that I just love. It almost always puts a smile on my face, and gets me laser-focused and energized in a matter of minutes.

So here's the how-to breakdown of Sun Salutation A...

Begin with your hands at heart center. Take a moment to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths & set an intention, or at least use this pause to bring your awareness to the present moment.

On an inhale, rise your arms up to the sky with strength & intention reaching out through your finger tips, gaze up. 

Exhale forward fold. Feel free to keep a bend in your knees, especially for the first few rounds. Let your head hang heavy, no tension in the neck or arms.

Inhale half-way lift, flat back, shoulder blades glide down your back, gaze slightly forward. Hands can rest on your thighs, shins or ground -- whichever keeps the integrity of the flat back.

Exhale step back to a high plank & pause. Check in with your alignment: gaze slightly forward, shoulders over wrists, strong arms with triceps squeezing in towards each other, core engaged by drawing your ribs in towards each other (rather than a sucking in of the stomach) back & legs straight in one long line, energy pressing out your heels.

On the same exhale, lower only halfway, elbows grazing at your ribs. Core still strong.

Inhale flip your toes, press into your hands into upward dog, just hands & tops of feet should be in contact with the ground, thighs lifted (try cobra for the first few by keeping your legs & hips on the ground & just lifting chest slightly). Roll shoulders down away from your ears.

Exhale rise your hips up to the sky, flip your toes, downward dog. Hands shoulder-width apart, press firmly into all 10 fingers & knuckles, triceps squeezing in towards each other. Feet hip-width apart reaching your heels towards the ground, slight bend in knees if needed.

Inhale step to the front of your mat (after a few maybe hop forward). Half-way lift, flat back, shoulder blades glide down your back, gaze slightly forward. Hands can rest on your thighs, shins or ground -- whichever keeps the integrity of the flat back.

Exhale forward fold. Feel free to keep a bend in your knees, especially for the first few rounds. Let your head hang heavy, no tension in the neck or arms.

Inhale, rise your arms up to the sky with strength & intention reaching out through your finger tips, gaze up and perhaps slightly back to open the chest & heart. 

Exhale draw your hands back to heart center. Continue this loop as many times as you like (maybe 5-15 times in a row). On the last one, pause here. Notice your strong breath & energy flowing through your body. Harness that energy by bringing your awareness back to your intention, or simply taking this moment as an offer of gratitude for cultivating this radical time & space for yourself.

My newest conscious collaboration...

Being conscious is not just a practice in eating well, but living well as a whole -- how we interact with others, treat ourselves, and even down to the clothing and jewelry we wear. 

As healthy eating is a balance, it's also a balance to find brands that are as equally stylish as they are healthy to the environment and their workers.

Which is why when I was approached by Mala + Mantra to be their first Conscious Collaborator, I was ecstatic to partner up with a company that I knew understood the importance of both looking good and feeling good about what you're wearing.

Focusing on mala beads and bracelets, the company was "Designed with intention. Consciously created. Fair, sustainable fashion. To nurture the soul."

And even better, all of the M+M jewelry is crafted at a social enterprise in the Philippines that provides sustainable income, pays fair wages, and provides a safe work environment for a women’s cooperative in San Manuel, Pangasinan.

The materials like rosewood and coconut shell are sourced sustainably, AND M+M has a growing Women + Wellness Campaign that empowers female artisans around the globe. 

Could a fusion of fashion and mindfulness get more awesome?

I'd love for you to get to know M+M more, so check out this interview below (or on the M+M blog here) where I asked the company's founder, Judith Perez Compton, some fun questions!

Meredith Nordhem (MN): Why is it important to you to introduce M+M to the yoga community? How do you see meditation + yoga going hand in hand? 

Judith Perez Compton (JPC): When I first created Mala and Mantra, I wanted to cater to three core audiences: the yoga, wellness, and spa communities. I felt that these three communities would be most receptive to the larger message behind the M+M brand—that of mindfulness, self-enlightenment, wellness, and empowerment. 

I see meditation and yoga as an integrated practice, as it is for myself when I practice every morning. Meditation is how I center myself through my breathing to create self-awareness, and yoga is how I integrate my breathing and body together. When I combine the two, I achieve a mind-body-spirit connection, which is what I think many people are searching for in their everyday lives.

 MN:  What's one feeling you hope people experience when they wear their M+M malas + jewelry?

JPC: Mindfulness, which essentially is self-awareness in the present moment, without judgment.

MN: How can integrating malas and consciously created jewelry, like the kind M+M make, into one's yoga + meditation practice enhance their overall wellness experience?

JPC: Mala beads, in particular, are a traditional meditation tool used to help keep focus and count mantras while meditation, so I think their connection to meditation is very real and powerful. I use my beads every day to meditate and stay centered, and I carry them with and on me throughout the day to help embody the properties of the particular gemstone or wood malas I’m wearing.

I think mala beads and other conscious jewelry can be very useful when practicing yoga, too, because they keep you grounded. They keep you focused on the present moment, on everything going on in your body instead of outside of it, and I think that’s one of the wonderful things about yoga in general. 

MN: If M+M were a yoga pose, which pose would she be and why?

JPC: The Prayer Pose, because mala beads are used for meditation or prayer. They also symbolize the mantra Namaste, which translates to "The divine light in me honors the divine light in you." It’s one of my favorites.  

MN: What can us yoga lovers expect next from M+M?

JPC: Lots of new things are definitely coming your way in 2015!  New collections launching this Spring + Summer 2015 include our Lariats + Layers Collection, the “I Am Me” Collection, our Crafted For a Cause Collection, and our much-anticipated Yoga Mala Collection, along with exciting introductions to our vetted Conscious and Creative Collaborators (and so much more)!

Learn more about Mala+Mantra (and check out their current super fun and vibrant Moda Mala Collection) here.